The U.S. Navy Salvage and Diving division of the Naval Seas Systems Command was contracted to locate the El Faro container ship which has been missing since October 1 and presumed to have sunk off the Bahamas close to the eye of Hurricane Joaquin.
The navy salvage team have been tasked with assisting in the sea floor documentation of the wreckage, and recovering the voyage data recorder, U.S. National Transportation Safety Board said in its preliminary report on the incident issued on October 15.
The El Faro, a 790-foot roll on, roll off cargo ship owned by Sea Star Line and operated by TOTE Services, was en route to San Juan, Puerto Rico, from Jacksonville, Florida. At approximately 7:30 a.m. local time October 1, U.S. Coast Guard watchstanders were notified that the El Faro was disabled some 36 nautical miles northeast of Acklins and Crooked Islands, Bahamas.
Just minutes before the distress alerts, the El Faro master had called TOTE’s designated person ashore and reported that the ship was experiencing some flooding. He said the crew had controlled the ingress of water but the ship was listing 15 degrees and had lost propulsion.
The Coast Guard and TOTE were unable to reestablish communication with the ship. Twenty-eight U.S. crew members and five Polish workers were on board.
The Coast Guard located one deceased person in a survival suit in the water Sunday night. 32 remaining crew members, including the ship’s captain, are missing and presumed dead.
The family of one of the missing crew members, the 33-year-old Lonnie Jordan, have filed a USD 100 million negligence and wrongful death lawsuit against Tote Services Inc., Tote Maritime Puerto Rico, and the vessel’s captain in Jacksonville, Florida.